PHOENIX (AP) — Jeff Samardzija thought he pitched well enough to win. Except for two pitches, he probably would have.
Samardzija gave up a two-run homer to Jason Kubel on a 3-0 count and a two-run triple to Miguel Montero on a hanging splitter, leading to the Chicago Cubs’ 6-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night.
“I feel better than what I did,” Samardzija said after his third straight loss. “It is just that those times when you get runners on base you really need to bear down and make your pitches, especially with runners in scoring position.”
The Cubs appeared to catch a break when scheduled Diamondbacks starter Joe Saunders was scratched because he couldn’t get loose in the bullpen.
Instead, they struggled against the quirky delivery of fill-in Josh Collmenter and had trouble capitalizing on their numerous opportunities, going 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position while stranding 11 for their sixth loss in nine games.
“Same old story: We had our chances to get back in it or bust it open and couldn’t get that big hit to do it,” Cubs manager Dave Sveum said. “You take the lead and they come right back. We had our chances. You can’t have bases loaded a couple of times and get nothing across. You aren’t going to win many ballgames.”
With Saunders struggling to get loose, the Diamondbacks turned to Collmenter, a one-time starter who had been moved to the bullpen. He gave up a long homer to Geovany Soto and struggled with his control, but got Arizona through four innings. Brad Ziegler (4-1) took it from there, allowing two hits in two scoreless innings, and David Hernandez escaped a bases-loaded jam in the eighth inning before tossing a perfect ninth for his second save.
Combined with Jason Kubel’s two-run homer and Miguel Montero’s two-run triple — not to mention two hits by relievers — the Diamondbacks scraped together an everybody-contributes win, their eighth in nine home games.
“Nine innings of one-run ball, 10 strikeouts from our bullpen, that’s a pretty impressive effort for our bullpen,” Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson said. “Add a couple of hits from the bullpen, it was quite a night for us.”
With Saunders out, Collmenter got another crack at starting.
The over-the-top right-hander struggled through most of the spring and his first four starts before being bumped to the bullpen. Collmenter took the demotion well and has thrived in his new role, posting a 1.45 ERA with 18 strikeouts and two walks in 18 2-3 innings.
He did his part on short notice against the Cubs, escaping a jam in the second inning by striking out Luis Valbuena and Samardzija after walking two to load the bases with one out.
Collmenter worked around another walk in the third inning, but left a 1-2 pitch up in the fourth that Soto sent about 25 feet above the yellow line for a 1-0 Cubs lead.
Collmenter was done after four innings, giving up three hits with six strikeouts and three walks, which wasn’t too bad considering he hadn’t planned on starting.
“Mental it’s probably way tougher than physically for him,” Ziegler said. “He can get loose and go out and pitch. You go out to the bullpen and relax for five or six innings and all of a sudden he’s got to turn it on right away. For him to go out and get four innings into the game, that was huge for us.”
Samardzija (5-6) had Arizona guessing until the fourth inning, when Kubel, swinging on a 3-0 pitch, lifted a two-run homer to left-center. The Diamondbacks cobbled together another run off Samardzija with two outs in the fifth: Ziegler’s first career hit, Willie Bloomquist’s squibbed single to the right side and Aaron Hill’s run-scoring single that extended his home hitting streak to 14 games and the lead to 3-1.
Samardzija created problems for himself in the sixth, walking the first two batters to set up Montero’s two-run triple that put Arizona up 5-1. The right-hander allowed five runs and seven hits in five innings, the second time in three starts he’s yielded at least five earned runs.
“You have to make your pitches, quality pitches, and down in the zone,” Samardzija said. “If the ball is up and they hit it up, then it is probably going out of the park.”
Justin Upton added a double in the seventh inning off Jairo Asencio that scored Bloomquist, who made a heads-up play by tagging up and moving to second on Hill’s long fly to center.
The Cubs loaded the bases in the eighth against Bryan Shaw, who replaced Craig Breslow, but Hernandez got David DeJesus to hit a weak grounder to second to end the inning.
Hernandez had his first career hit in the bottom half before closing out the ninth to become the first Diamondbacks player to have a hit and a save since Jose Valverde on Sept. 20, 2003, at Milwaukee.
“This was a true team win,” said Hernandez, who jokingly posed with his bat for postgame interviews.
NOTES: Ziegler’s first career hit came in his second at-bat. Hernandez’s came in his fourth. … Chicago has lost 26 of 35 since May 15. … Cubs LHP Paul Maholm will be looking for his first win in seven starts against the Diamondbacks on Saturday after winning four straight games from April 21 to May 9. … Arizona RHP Ian Kennedy, Saturday’s starter against the Cubs, is 0-2 with a 5.27 ERA in his past two starts. He matched his career high with 12 strikeouts in his last start at Chase Field against the Rockies on June 5.
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